‘Forces to Flyers’ Puts Veterans on the Flight Deck

Government program puts vets on a path to the airlines by offering free flight training.

737 Cockpit
Program graduates may one day find themselves working in a cockpit like this.737 Cockpit from Lufthansa magazine

A test program that is giving military veterans the opportunity to become airline pilots could help relieve some of the tension caused by the current pilot shortage.

Announced last fall by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao, the Forces to Flyers Research Initiative is a three-year program that will give veterans access to flight training with the end goal of them becoming commercial pilots. Forces to Flyers is being led by the Department of Transportation and the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center.

“In order for America to continue to be a world leader in aviation, we must search for ways to address our country’s pilot shortage, invest in our nation’s workforce, and ensure that our veterans have the support they need as they transition to the next phase of their careers,” Chao said during the announcement of the program.

According to the Volpe Center, four flight schools are involved in the program and will train up to 40 students to earn their Private, Instrument, Commercial, Multi-Engine, Certified Flight Instructor (CFI), and CFI-Instrument ratings. The schools involved are Leading Edge Aviation in Oregon, CTI Professional Flight Training in Tennessee and Florida, and U.S. Aviation Group in Texas.

The government is giving these schools $1.8 million to provide free training for veterans through CFII. The newly christened pilots would then be expected to work as flight instructors to obtain the 1,500 flight hours needed to obtain an ATP certificate and become airline pilots.

Students are obligated to have obtained a first-class medical certificate, a student pilot certificate, and a reference letter from a current or previous commanding officer, teacher, instructor, professor, supervisor or manager.

“As a pilot and an ATP, I know firsthand how rewarding flying is and I am confident our nation’s heroes would make a positive contribution to the profession,” said Missouri Congressman Sam Graves in response to the initiative.